A delegation of members of the Oireachtas Éireann (the Irish national parliament) has visited Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform. The delegation, led by Pat Breen, chairman of the Irish parliament's foreign affairs committee, will meet with key members of the pro-amnesty movement, including Rep. Paul Ryan and Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
The delegation will also meet with key members of the House Judiciary Committee and it's Immigration Subcommittee, including subcommittee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, Rep. Jim Jordan, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney.
Teachta Dála (TD) Breen realizes the positive impact that immigration reform could have on Irish living illegally in the United States and those wishing to come to the U.S. legally. Currently, about 50,000 illegal aliens from Ireland live and work from the United States and the delegation is pushing for a new visa to allow 10,000 Irish to come to the U.S each year (a similar E-3 visa already exists for Australian nationals).
Irish nationals have a a history of receiving special treatment from Congressional immigration legislation. When the late Sen. Ted Kennedy pushed through his diversity immigration lottery, allowing 50,000 immigrants to come to the U.S. each year from underrepresented countries, Sen. Kennedy insisted that many of the spots be reserved for Irish nationals (by Irish law, this included those born in Northern Ireland as well). Last year, former Sen. Scott Brown tried to pass legislation to extend the E-3 visa to Irish nationals. Given the tremendous wave of Irish immigration starting in the late 19th century, Ireland can hardly be considered an underrepresented country.
According to Breen:
It’s an opportunity to lobby our U.S. counterparts to garner bipartisan support for the immigration reform legislation. We’re targeting Republican Congress members because at the moment there is a high degree of uncertainty among them as regards their capacity to engage in immigration issues. This is why we’ve assembled a strong team from the Irish parliament to go out, a cross party delegation from the foreign affairs committee, because we feel we want to target the key players here. We will have a broad discussion with many of the U.S. Irish lobby groups like the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) before we have a meeting with Congress members on Wednesday. They will fill us in on the feeling out there at the moment. What I’m hearing is there is a window of opportunity. We have to grasp that opportunity.
There may be another opportunity for a bill in January or February but then you have conventions coming up and elections coming up. It could be too late then. The timing now is better and I would put our chances at 50-50. If the momentum and the will are there.
The Irish delegation will also be meeting with senior officials from President Obama's immigration team and with House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
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Updated: Wed, Jul 5th 2017 @ 4:15pm EDT